Certificate programs teach the fundamentals of repair and maintenance, and they generally require a high school diploma. Associate degree programs cover many of the same HVAC-R skills but in more depth, and they include general education coursework as well. Applicants to these programs should have a minimum of a high school diploma, and a strong background in mathematics may also prove beneficial.
Apprenticeships are another training option. Students of apprenticeship programs must work with licensed technicians as they complete a specified number of hours of classroom instruction and on-the-job training.
Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Certificate
A certificate program in heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration trains students to install, maintain, and repair equipment used in residential and commercial buildings. Students learn how to diagnose and troubleshoot equipment such as motors and switches. Students enrolled in an HVAC-R certificate program are often prepared to take examinations for industry certifications. Coursework can cover:
- Basic refrigeration
- Basic electricity
- Residential heating
- HVAC control systems
- Commercial refrigeration
Associate of Applied Science in HVAC-R
Students in HVAC-R associate degree programs learn to detect and evaluate problems, such as water leaks, which they learn to control using basic piping practices. HVAC-R associate degree programs also provide instruction in fundamentals of hand and power tool usage. Degree candidates in the field learn how to service different components of HVAC-R equipment. Other coursework may include:
- Basic electricity
- Troubleshooting electronics
- Troubleshooting heating
- Troubleshooting cooling
- Installation practices
Apprenticeship programs are also available for prospective HVAC-R technicians that combine academic coursework with on-the-job training. These programs last anywhere from 3-5 years, and individuals must complete at least 800 hours of classroom work and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. Academic coursework covers topics in wiring diagrams, refrigeration installation and services, AC/DC circuits, chilled water systems, air distribution systems, and pipe fitting. On-the-job training is conducted through a local union, and apprentices may receive a stipend for their work. As apprentices gain more experience, they receive more responsibilities on job sites under the supervision of a licensed HVAC-R technician.
Popular Career Options
Those with a certificate or degree in HVAC-R usually find entry-level work in the heating and cooling industry. Employment opportunities may be available in large facilities, such as factories, as well as schools, hotels, or office buildings. Graduates can pursue jobs in:
- Commercial refrigeration service
- HVAC-R systems installation
- Equipment service and sales
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for HVAC-R technicians as of May 2018 was $47,610 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported jobs in this category were expected to increase 13% for the decade spanning 2018-2028.
Professional Certification and Continuing Education
Licensure requirements for those working as HVAC-R technicians vary by state. Various professional organizations, such as North American Technician Excellence (NATE), offer certifications to those working in HVAC-R; many employers look for applicants with certification through industry organizations before considering employment. Certification is granted once an applicant successfully completes an examination. Recertification may require completion of continuing education credits.
Graduates of HVAC-R training programs can pursue employment as HVAC-R technicians in schools, office buildings and hotels. Professional certifications through industry organizations are voluntary but may help increase employment opportunities.